Starks Building Sold; Major Makeover in Works


 
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A Florida company has closed on the purchase of the Starks Building and plans a major makeover of the historic downtown anchor property that will include apartments, hotel rooms and office space.

Mendel Hertz, whose company had owned the 14story structure on the northeast corner of Fourth Street and Muhammad Ali Boulevard for nine years, confirmed Monday that he closed last week on the sale to Hudson Holdings of Delray Beach, Fla., for $14.25 million.

Spokesmen for Hudson, which has expertise in renovation of historic properties, didn't immediately return phone calls Monday morning. But Hertz said Hudson plans a major infusion of capital and that the project will include offices on the lower floors and a mix of apartments and hotel rooms on the upper floors.

Starks Building could become hotel, living space Hertz said in the interview Monday that "I love the building but it needs an injection of ideas. It needs new blood, and they (Hudson) are excited" about prospects for a makeover. He said Hudson plans to install new elevators and new HVAC systems.

Some of the tenants will stay and others leave, Hertz predicted. The Starks Building, which dates to 1912, is in the same block as 4th Street Live, across from the Seelbach Hotel and adjacent to the block where Omni Hotels plans a recently announced $289 million hotel, apartment, grocery, garage and retail project. A new 304 room Embassy Suites on the southeast corner of Fourth and Ali is to open Tuesday.

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Hertz's investment company bought the building in 2006 for $12.5 million, and it is currently assessed at $8.5 million. Just over half of the building's more than 350,000 square feet of space is occupied. Among the higherprofile tenants is the upscale Eddie Merlot's restaurant on the street level. Hertz said he doesn't have any other property holdings in Louisville.

Hudson in February briefly had a posting on its website that it planned to purchase the Starks Building, but the posting was quickly taken down, apparently because of a nondisclosure clause related to the contract on the property. The posting indicated that Hudson planned to turn the building into a hotel and apartments, while retaining some streetlevel retail and office space.

The company indicated it would pursue historic tax credits to help finance the venture. Hudson Holdings says it has interest in the Gulfstream Hotel in Lake Worth, Fla., Linton Towers in Delray Beach, Fla., and the Orlando Hotel in Kissimee, Fla. It owns several historic hotel properties. In 2009 the Cordish Co., the operator of 4th Street Live, abandoned a lease for nearly 20,000 square feet of space in the Starks Building — space that it originally intended for a restaurant and an expansion of its 4th Street Live entertainment hub. Cordish signed the lease in mid 2007 for the groundlevel space that for years had been partly occupied by Rodes, a men's clothing store — space now occupied by Merlot's.

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